December 14th, 2015

Holiday cards

Holiday cards–I love’em. I love all greeting cards, actually, but rarely do I get to send, or receive, so many all at once. I tend to buy most of mine at Boxing Day sales so I can afford the really glitzy ones with glitter and high-quality card stock, though sometimes the cheaper ones are too cute to pass up and sometimes I get caught out and have to buy cards at full price in December. But most years I am eagerly waiting all fall for it to be November–card-writing time. When I lived alone, I would start at the beginning of November and work on them on and off for a few weeks. Now, my husband asks me to wait until November 12 out of deference to veterans and just the natural order of things. So I do, but I am VERY excited to get out my cards and stamps and address book on November 12. I try to get everything into the mail for December 1, because I feel like that is the first acceptable day (a card in November would be weird) and I want to give people maximum time to have them up. I always used to feel sad if I got a card on December 24, knowing it would be up for only a few days before getting recycled. Then one year I realized I didn’t want to take down all the cards taped to my kitchen cupboards–who wants to look at blank cupboards–so I only slowly replace them as I receive birthday and other holiday cards throughout the year–but I realize most people don’t follow that procedure. I also use an otherwise empty curtain rod above my living room window to display some of the cards we got for our wedding three years ago.

So yeah, I like cards–writing, stamping, mailing, and yes, receiving them. But I am not concerned if people I send cards to do not send one to me. Most people don’t send holiday cards these days, which has three main advantageous effects that I can see:

  1. Even the cards with glitter on them are cheaper now. The popup ones remain expensive, but that’s pretty much it.
  2. If I forget someone from my card-sending list, that person isn’t sad because they weren’t expecting to hear from me in the first place, and
  3. Those people who do get a card from me are more delighted than they would have been 20 or 30 years ago, when many people got dozens of cards. Some people have told me that mine are the only cards they get in a season, and that they love them.

So I’m not surprised that I get back a fraction of the cards I send, though I do love those that I get. Some people, not card senders by nature, email or Facebook or text in response to the cards, which is lovely. Or they make sure to hit me up for coffee or a drink early in the new year. Or something else–anything else–to respond to my card in kind. Because what the cards say is, mainly, “Hey, I like you. I hope you’re doing good.” And there’s a million ways to say that.

It kind of alarms me when people freak out about not sending cards–that it’s such a beautiful tradition, such a shame that I just can’t do them anymore. This is of course usually untrue–anyone could buy a box of cards at the drugstore, order stamps online, and do up the whole box by staying up an hour late. If you don’t want to, I get that–lots of things are higher priority. Cards are one of my priorities, but they don’t have to be everyone’s. It’s silly to say can’t though.

Let’s face it–grown-ups don’t stay in touch too well. My friends have scattered over the world, but even locally, it’s hard to get people in the same room very often. We have to work at our jobs and, in the creative community, at our other jobs; commute; raise children; care for ill or elderly relatives, and/or be ill ourselves; clean our homes and cook food; spend time with our partners, pets, and families; sleep. And no one wants to talk on the phone anymore, for reasons I still don’t fully understand.

I grew up with the idea that you could care about people from afar, even if you don’t talk to them that often. My folks came to Canada in the 1970s, and often had only one or two long newsy calls or letters a year from people back in the States, often around the holidays. It makes sense to me that there will always be people I care about that I’m not in regular touch with–cards are one of a number of ways I maintain that bond.

Pretty much the only reason I would ever drop someone from my card list is if there were zero contact for several years in a row. I send you a card, you don’t send me one back–you’re busy, you’re out of town, you don’t like cards. And maybe we don’t get around to hanging out at all that year, and I send another card, and another year goes by, a few Facebook messages go unanswered, an email bounces…I might conclude that it’s best to stop bothering you.

Even if a friendship were getting weird or tense, I’d probably still send a card, and hope that could be either a step to improving things or a stopgap until I thought of something that could–it’s such an easy way to convey positive feelings, and you don’t really need to write a lot more detail. Happy holidays and all the best in the new year really does, in fact, suffice.

February 13th, 2014

The Upcoming Holidays

I do not have anything new to say on the concept of Valentine’s Day–I looked it up and apparently my beliefs are exactly the same as on Vday 2011. And no one at any point has every cared for my Family Day is fascist position. So why don’t I just wish you a great long weekend of demonstrating affection for whomever you want however you want. I plan to take many naps and potentially see an aerialist.

February 14th, 2012

Be Nice to Everybody Day

I got over my Valentine’s Animosity years ago, and I’ve been liking it more and more. It’s a great day to be loving towards people you don’t always remember to treat that way–people in the grocery store, fellow highway drivers, the bus driver. Sure, why not do the traditional Valentine’s things (eat red foods and dessert with frosting on it), but also remember to extend the love beyond the warm glow of the people you’re generally nice to anyway. I do worry about our societal presumption that the people we won’t have to see again, we don’t have to be kind to.

I just realized that last year’s V-day post was almost verbatim this one, but with a quotation, so here’s one for this year:

“And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the light and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.”

Guess what that’s from? Under Pressure by Queen–not sure how that bit connects with the rest of the song, but I think the isolated sentence is true–loving one person a lot should make me more generous, more caring, kinder, even to those far from the spotlight of romantic love. Definitely the best couples I know, the ones I know are terribly happy with each other, are also better for it in other ways, and they share their good fortune with those around them in their warmth and kindness. I hope my relationship is like that; I think it is. It’s certainly something to strive for.

December 15th, 2011

The Annual Christmas Conversation

I meet new people every year, and thus every December I get to have this strange conversation about my Christmas feelings . Sometimes I have to have it multiple years with the same person, as my confusing viewpoint is hard to remember. Perhaps I’ll just immortalize this in the blog, and then send people the link when they ask…

Ok, I won’t really do that, as people mean well and I am something of a special case–folks are right to be confused. Let me take you through it step by step:

1. I am Jewish.
2. I love Christmas.
3. I do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
4. I do believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity.
5. I like tinsel, cookies, carols, indoor trees, and time off work.
6. I attend Christmas parties, concerts, and other festivities, and enjoy them very much.
7. I do not represent anyone other than myself and, somewhat, my weird family. No one should use me as example when they are saying it’s ok to insist that non-Christian folks participate in Christmas festivities because, “Christmas is for everyone!” or “It’s really a secular holiday now.” It actually isn’t secular unless someone (like me) chooses to celebrate it in that way.
8. I am a secular Jew. Religious Jews–and religious other sorts of people–would likely have a much different reaction to Christmas stuff than I would. Or maybe not. The only way to know how anyone feels about anything is to ask that person specifically.
9. I am respectful of all cultures, including Christianity. I understand how devout Christians might find it off-putting if I told them I was taking an interest in their holy day merely for the music, cookies, tinsel, and hugs. I try to avoid invitations to truly religious occasions, even though they often have the best singing. I will not be hurt if I am not included.
10. I appreciate respect in return. I don’t do a lot of traditionally Jewish things, but no one gets to decide that I’m “not really Jewish” on my behalf.
11. Hanukkah is a pretty awesome holiday, but it is not a Christmas equivalent. It’s relatively minor in religious importance, though it’s been elevated in cultural significance due to closeness to Christmas on the calandar.
12. It’s fine to wish Jews Happy Hanukkah, but it’s also fine not to if you don’t know when it is (hint: it’s on the lunar calandar, so not the same dates every year) or what it celebrates (see Wikipedia link above). If you want to ask me about Hanukkah feel free, but you don’t have to.
13. One reason I love Hanukkah because it’s one of the only instances of a double “k” that I know of, and I think it looks neat.
14. Hanukkah tinsel exists, but it is really hard to find.
15. Sometimes I wear tinsel in my hair.

So…does that clear everything up?

December 24th, 2010

Reverb 24

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis) (www.reverb10.com)

Oh, I don’t know–“moments” as such don’t really occur to me. How about this: I had a really tough day last week and came home to four holiday cards, my Pen Canada membership, and a metropass in my mailbox. And for that particular evening, certainly, everything was ok. Friends, communication, engagement, freedom of movement–these are the things that I love, and I know I’m lucky to have them.

Presumably, in real life, things are never entirely ok–I am currently worried that the kitten will smash a Christmas bulb and cut her tiny paw–but they can be pretty close. Thanks for the cards, the blog comments, the real life parties, Facebook and Twitter messages, hugs real and electronic. Thanks for being my friends and readers, and I hope everything is pretty nearly ok with you.

Merry Christmas, if you swing that way.

February 9th, 2010

Be nice to everyone week!

Longtime Rose-coloured readers may know that I hold the wildly unpopular position that Family Day is fascist. I’m less alarmed about Valentine’s Day because it’s a Hallmark initiative, not a legislative one–if the government gets involved in telling people how to woo, I’m moving to Sweden–but it’s not my favourite occasion.

I am certainly very fond of the concepts of both familial and romantic love, and don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating them–I just think that since not everyone finds themselves in a situation where a celebration is possible or appropriate, maybe the government might stay out of it (especially since they’re really just trying to keep Ontario businesses from inconveniencing American sister offices by being open on Presidents’ Day).

But I’m not going to prevail on this one, and I’ve (largely) stopped ranting. As you’ll see in the posts above, I’m trying to use this week for a more relevant campaign of affection–for strangers and friends and acquaintances, whoever doesn’t have a socially prescribed position in my life. Taking out my earbuds at the cashier and saying “How are you?” like I care about the answer (I do!) . Giving my seat on the subway to whoever looks tired. Taking down my garbage early so it’s not a hassle for the super. Tipping generously, giving to charity, baking for bakesales (Thursday!), noticing new haircuts, and carrying the heavy stuff–I’m always trying to remember to do this stuff, but this week I’m trying extra.
When I start the “Family Day/Fascism” stuff, friends always point out that I have an awesome family, and I do; I know I’m lucky. It just seems weird that we would have a day where those who are lucky celebrate that, and those who aren’t so lucky get to feel extra bad about it. I think maybe my viewpoint is somewhat skewed because I volunteered for several years talking to people who didn’t have anyone else to talk to, but I do feel that more people are isolated and lonely in our society than us lucky ones care to think about. And those people might not be feeling so great about the weekend o’ mandated emotion coming up. A little niceness might go a long way for them right now–or anytime, really.
RR

January 5th, 2010

New month’s resolution

So I couldn’t come up with any new year’s resolutions. That makes me sad, because I love new year’s resolutions. Hooray for opportunities to improve–I have lots of ways I need to improve! In past years, I have made 10 little resolutions to work on throughout the year, with a midyear review on my birthday (in case I decide some resolutions are stupid and decide to junk them).

But this year I can’t think of anything I want to work on all year. In truth, that’s often what’s wrong with me–some resolutions get “resolved” early in the year because they are specific (ie., last year I resolved to learn one word in Japanese a week until I went there, and I did, and then I went there, and that was that) and others drag on because they are too open-ended (become braver was the other resolution–wtf was I thinking?? how?? and how will I know if I have??)

Even if they are good specific-but-long-term plans, by the time I get to the end of the year both my world and myself are usually completely different and I no longer want to do the thing I resolved to do. I think a large part of my problem with life, actually, is that I don’t realize that everything changes all the time.

So this year I have resolved to resolve a new thing for each month. If it works, great, that can be part of my lifestyle, and I’ll resolve something new for the next month. If it sucks, oh well, I’ll junk it and have something new for the next month. I guess I could also renew a resolution for a second month if need be, but Penelope Trunk says it only takes three weeks to make a new habit, and I’m giving myself an extra week for cushion.

My January resolution is to start writing in the mornings, at least a little bit. Tonnes of writers swear by this habit, but I’ve always been a little brain-dead in the morning. I’m totally a morning person, I’m happy to get up and do things and even chat with you (very few people want to chat with me early in the morning, it turns out), but I don’t feel I come up with great insight before 9am very often.

So what I usually do with my early mornings is go to the gym, but this winter I have been feeling that if I have to leave the house at 5:45 and walk in slush and cold and blackness to the gym every morning, I might die. Serious, this is a creaky old person sensation, and it’s not good.

Thus I’ve been going to the gym in the evenings, which cuts into my writing time, so the logical thing would be…there you go. I tried it this morning–it was a little disorganized and not my best work by far but it’s a try. Three weeks less a day to go!

Happy new year!
RR

Hearts and stars to 2009

Ok, I’m lagging behind but I am still thinking about 2009 and trying to think of an appropriate tribute. Just to be clear, this was a year I liked *very* much, but I don’t think all the highlights are blog-appropriate (every cookie I ate and person I hugged and time a civil servant was extra nice to me could get dull, not to mention unwieldy). So I’m concentrating on bookish highlights–they are, after all, often the most interesting parts of my day.

Books read: 69 (ha!)

Books written: 1/2 of one (hiatus’d); 1/2 of another (promising!)

Regrets regarding the first of those: none that I wrote it, none that I stopped (right now, at least; I’m a little moody on this subject)

Best reading experience: Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo over the course of two days in July, while lying in the grass in various public parks in Toronto. This was very much not the best book I read in 2009–in fact I have a lot of problems with it that I’m dying to discuss (any takers?) But it certainly is suspenseful and I was very eager to find out what happened, and I had nothing to do but keep reading in the glorious sunshine, interrupted only by bathroom breaks, eating on patios and conversations with my equally bookish companion. There aren’t many better weekends, I’d say.

Best CanLit in-joke that I actually got: In the novella “Gator Wrestling” in Leon Rooke’s The Last Shot. This is a stellar piece, even if you never get the joke–it’s just the sprinkles on already overwhelmingly delicious frosted cake. Conversely, there are likely many jokes I didn’t get in books I’ve read this year–but how good were those books to start with?

Most hated short story: “Pain Continuum” by Harold Brodkey. I *love* a lot of Brodkey’s stories–even the notorious cunnilingus story, “Innocence” but he has a slew of first-person-narrator-experiencing-torture marathon stories that make you hate the narrator, the torturers, the author, the world and yourself. I think he had an artistic ambition with this story, but I don’t care: I loathe it.

Best reading (as audience): Spencer Gordon, “The Sentence,” Pivot at the Press Club. I think this would be a great piece on paper (but I’m still waiting for it to published so that I can confirm that) but Gordon’s voice and the audience’s warm reception made this incredible to listen to.

Best reading (as reader): the Metcalf-Rooke reading in Montreal at Drawn and Quarterly. Fantastic lineup, amazing venue (when else I am going to be onstage in a graphic novel store?), all in my old town. As to my own performance, I felt more thoroughly that I didn’t suck than usual, which in my self-conscious universe counts as a win!

Best book launch accessory: Amy Jones’s mixed cd for her launch for What Boys Like. What a good idea (and good music!) (and a good book!)

Worst disappointment: Closing announcement of Don Mills McNallly Robinson. I’d pinned a lot of hopes on that lovely space. So sad.

Best literary reading food: Really fat and enormous dates at the launch of Marta Chudolinska’s Back and Forth graphic novel.

Best conversation about writing: About 72 short stories, with Camilla Gibb and Lee Henderson as we debated and decided on the stories for The Journey Stories 21. A warm, empassioned and literate conversation that lasted all day in a big sunny room, with sushi.

I could go on and on–it was a really good year. Buy you get the gist, I’m sure–and we all have a year to get on with!

RR

January 2nd, 2010

Two thousand and what?

I was going to recap this past week of vacation at some point, but then I realized that I should also do a 2009-in-review post, and then people started going on about the end of the *decade* and now I am just utterly overwhelmed.

I’ve been reading other people’s lovely 2000s retrospectives instead, happy that some people can do this right. A lot of them are fairly personal, even if they are on blogs focussed on reading or writing or whatever (my interests are pretty narrow in scope). Which only makes sense–ten years is a huge meaningful block in anyone’s life, and it’s hard not to get emotional thinking of what’s been wrought in that time, even if a lot of good books got read in there, too.

Though I never particularly felt that the aughts had any kind of decadey tone, that might be because they were the first decade in which I was semi-functional in the world (there probably are people who are fully conscious agents in their own lives before they turn 21; to them I say, bravo). So to me the aughts are not just a decade where certain things happened–it’s the decade when *everything* happened.

This was driven home to me last night when the party discussion turned to where we spent Y2K New Year’s. I spent mine at the City of Hamilton’s outdoor celebration, because the band featured wasHoneymoon Suite, which was a (semi-ironic) favourite band of mine and my friends. I was visiting my parents outside of Hamilton on break from my third year of university.

If present Rebecca could somehow go meet me in the past, my younger self would probably only say, “How did you get your hair like that?”

I had no idea then how my life would go, and no idea how I *wanted* it to go, so I really don’t think I would have known how to ask a pertinent question. But I would have been really impressed with future self for getting my hair (mainly) under control.

And looking back, I still can’t form a meaningful narrative looking at the decade as a whole. Having this blog, and doing some interviews and profiles when *Once* came out last year, really put this in perspective for me. I can make certain events and relationships seem to cohere into a logical arc by extracting them from the long silly series of events that is my life and putting them only in the context of each other.

But to me, and I think to most people in the process of living, there is no narrative–just the things that happened, and what we did about them. It’s the act of writing (ah, this post has a point!) that creates a story, whether or not the events are true–the selection of what to leave in and what to omit, how to frame, what tone to take, whose point of view to honour. This blog in certain ways is the story of my life over the last 3 years, but it’s highly biased since I do all the telling, and I leave most of what doesn’t really pertain to reading and writing (usually) (for example, an edited version would include boring stuff like what I ate at every meal, dumb stuff like that time I got stuck in the back of the couch, and incriminating stuff like how I tried too hard to pet this cat that she went ballistic and tried to eat me).
I found a really interesting little section in the journal Ars Medica about how to write about real life:
“…[In reading fiction] we sometimes encounter unprocessed details…that have specific, charged meaning for the teller but are unclear to the reader. These pieces in many ways resemble journalling or therapeutic writing. The author is too close to the events or uses personal code and shorthand, which leave gaps. As a result, we are not fully invited into the experience. Stories of trauma and loss are often fragmented, because they remain so for the writer and have not yet been crafted through the personal and creative steps that render them coherent and universal.
“Writing personal narratives may indeed be healing, but to be literary there needs to be distance, and “observer’s eye” that allows us to to see the full picture.”
So that’s what I lack, I think–the observer’s eye that allows be to see my life from beyond my own headspace, to really think in terms of my own fictional self as living a story. And this is why I don’t write much autobiographical fiction–I’m bad at it. I know the details and their import so I leave them out, I get stuck on a particular “truth” and thus can’t make the story truly resonant with people other than myself.
The blog is an opportunity to try to craft mini-narratives that still sorta stick to the truth, but you might have noticed that I don’t often do that–Rose-coloured consists much more of essay/opinion/rant-type writing, or else snatches of contextless dialogue, rather than actual beginning-middle-end type stories from my own life. Those are just too hard–how to find an “ending” to my anecdote when I’m still alive.
So I find it weird to be looking at my life in a ten-year chunk–no narrative seems available. 10 years ago I had a roommate, I lived in Montreal, I was writing a weird novella, and my favourite food was probably chocolate macaroons. Are those the salient details of me at that point? Who knows? I don’t even know the salient details of my life now, and I certainly don’t know how to take the relatively simple but to me wonderful, baffling, sad, exciting, and scary events of the last ten years and make it seem like I had a plan, an arc, or even a clue.
How does anyone ever write their autobiography?
And thus, to begin 2010, apparently this is a post about why I write fiction.
I hope your next 10 years, and mine, are wonderful and baffling.
RR

December 30th, 2009

En vacances

I thought that I might not have the time or internet connection to blog during vacation, but here I am with both of those. What I lack is anything to blog in regard to. It is funny to get through a day without writing or editing or talking to people about writing, or even eavesdropping on people on the bus (somehow, I consider that part of my work). As it turns out, this vacation thing is very pleasant. There is currently a blizzard going on where I am (Charlottetown, if you are curious), which limits activities to reading, eating, talking, and playing cards. Also, napping, which is not really an activity but does fill gaps in the day quite nicely.

Lulled on sleep and sugar, I am unable to come up with much that’s interesting to say. I have learned that PEIslanders are very friendly and call Gin Rummy “Queens” but it’s still fun, that I probably have some kind of chronic sinus issue that I need a professional to look into and if possible destroy, that I like lobster as much as I suspected I would, and that the innovators issue of the New Yorker is pretty good but they still shouldn’t have done away with the winter fiction issue.

I swear to you, that’s all I’ve got. I…uh…I’m gonna go work on a story now. And then maybe commute to nowhere, just feel a bit more like myself. Either that or take a nice midmorning nap.

RR

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